Email Etiquette

Wednesday, March 29, 2017



By Recent Graduate Jessica Mink

We’ve all been there: You’ve missed class and want to email your professor to see what you missed. You open a blank email, type in your professor’s name, and stare blankly at the computer screen. You want to sound professional, but also approachable; you want to convey a sense of urgency, but also avoid entitlement. Here are some tips you can utilize when composing an email to a professor, future employer, or someone of importance:

1. Use a clear, concise subject line.
The title, “Bio 332” is much better than “homework help” or “what did I miss?”
“Application for employment” is more likely to be opened than “hire me.”

2. Keep it short and sweet.
This isn’t the time to be writing a novel. Professors or industry professionals usually read their emails on their smartphones. The last thing they want to do is open a three-page essay on why you missed class or why they should hire you.

3. It’s okay to be personable.
Often times, the most effective emails, and even ones that leave a lasting impression, are the ones that involve a tasteful degree of flattery and personalization. For example, instead of just asking about the syllabus or following up on the resume you sent out, you might mention how you saw the company in the news that morning, or how you really enjoyed yesterday’s lecture. Be cautious. There is a very fine line between flattery and sucking up, and it’s incredibly easy to recognize.

4. Proofread, then proofread again.
When sending an email to a person of importance, spelling errors are basically a death sentence. That might be a bit dramatic, but they certainly won’t go unnoticed. Most of us proofread an essay before handing it in; it’s the same concept with an email. Don’t rely on spell-check alone; we all know they miss certain grammatical errors. Give it a thorough re-read before hitting send or if it’s of importance, print it out and have a friend or colleague look at it. You’d be surprised how many errors a fresh pair of eyes can find.

5. End on a good note.
Do yourself a favor and create an email signature so recipients know who you are and how to reach you. Set it up so that it appears after every email you send. You’ll come across as organized, professional, and polished. Who doesn’t want that?!

Some information pulled from:
Bhagi, Shivani. "Are Your Emails Killing or Boosting Your Reputation?." The Huffington Post, 29 Oct. 2015. Accessed 1 Mar. 2017.